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Remembering the fire at the Hangartner Building

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015812October is National Fire Prevention Month and over the last few weeks http://www.washingtoncountyinsider.com has been highlighting local Fire Department Open Houses and reminiscing about some of the memorable fires in the community.

According to records in the Research Center at the Washington County Historical Society the Hangartner Building, now the Centrum Building, is located in the 100 block of North Main Street.

In 1917 one of the tenants that moved into the third floor of the building was Robert Rolfs and his Amity Leather Products Company. At the time Rolfs had outgrown his rented room upstairs from Peters’ Store on Fifth and Hickory Streets.

According to information on an Amity website there were 15 employees and Amity was “bursting at the seams and within a year the company move to the third floor and attic space at the Hangartner Building.

In 1930 the attic and third floor of the building were severely damaged by fire. After which Amity moved into the Amity Building we know today, across from Badger Middle School.

William Kirchner, 96, of West Bend said during the 1930s, there was a restaurant on the south end of the Hangartner Building, a drug store in the middle and the Post Office on the north side. “The Poull family owned the restaurant which was the Beacon Restaurant,” said Kirchner.

The Beacon Restaurant had seen some changes over the years. According to Gene Wendelborn at the Historical Society the Beacon was a restaurant before WWII however “during the war the restaurant closed and the space became a USO office. After the war the space was once again a restaurant owned by Joseph Zager,” Wendelborn said.

Built in 1893 the Hangartner Building was home to many businesses including Gerlach & Haase, a drug store and a sign for a dentist on the second floor.

Over the years the drug store changed.  Janine Matenaer, 75, of West Bend said, “When I was in high school that was Dewey’s Drug Store and we’d go in and there were booths and that’s when Coke was Coke and served in curvy glass bottles.

“It was a big drug store on the first floor and there was a gal a year ahead of me in high school and her name was Barbara Dewey and I think it was her dad’s place,” Matenaer said.

Kirchner said the drug store was initially Regner’s Drugs and then changed to Dewey’s Drug Store. “The back end of that store was raised up a little higher and that’s where you could go and have a dish of ice cream or a root beer float,” he said.

During his early days at school, Kirchner also remembered he would go with his mother to the post office.  “And my mom and I did some cleaning at there. We’d empty the waste basket and once a week we had to mop the hardwood floor,” Kirchner said.

The Beacon Restaurant opened around 1929, it was ocated on the ground floor of the Hangartner Building, the site formerly housed the Washington County Publishing Company.

During World War II, a teen recreation center opened in the building, and after the war, Joseph Zager took over as the proprietor. After a number of years, he retired to Florida, and a Chinese restaurant occupied the site. When the building was remodeled into the Centrum Building, the original site was destroyed.

Bob Flasch of West Bend said the Hangartner Building used to host concerts, dances and medicine shows. Jerry Mehring also correctly identified the Hangartner Building as the current Centrum Building.


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